When I entered high school, my grandmother’s attitude started to change. She went from a bubbly, smiling woman to a somewhat flustered and confused individual. Her joy and life seemed to be draining at a rapid rate.
Misplaced items often led to arguments and distrust between close family members. Delusioned thoughts led to hurt hearts and smashed egos. Grandma aged ten years in a short time and her mental stability plummeted even faster.
I will never forget my graduation from high school, how she was so very excited to see her first grandchild walk across the stage, yet she was struggling so much to understand the whole process around it. She left before I could even thank her for being present, and she never celebrated with us afterwards. This is the year my heart started to break.
Although her doctor refused to diagnose her properly, dementia was clearly taking residence inside my grandmother’s body. Her eyes no longer held a twinkle and her spirit was broken. She became lost inside past memories that were mixed with present people. We all played a role in her mixed up mind, and we all walked away with tears and frustrations. Grandpa was stuck, refused to recognize the illness, and made excuses. His hurting eyes spoke volumes and his recovery from alcoholism waned.
I was never my grandmother’s primary care giver, but looking back, I wish that I had taken that role.
I would have cared for her and provided Grandpa a reprieve when needed. Kicking myself for those lost years won’t provide any riddance of guilt, but I do wish I could have made those times something more memorable than being stuck in my own self-indulged universe.
As hearts broke, I now question Grandpa’s hold on faith and how much I could have held his hand through the whole process. I see so many things I could have done, and resources I could have provided him. At the very least, I could have prayed with him and talked about the Lord’s faithfulness.
Twenty-one years later I have found something that I wish I could send back in time. Grace for the Unexpected Journey: A 60-Day Devotional for Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia Caregivers by Deborah Barr would have been a saving mercy to the both of us and a tool to get us through the worst of it.
Barr’s book is a 60-day journey though the promises and truth of Scripture that are relevant to the care-giver of one who is suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Each devotion holds a personal story of a care giver, short insights, and key Scripture verses to pray over and meditate upon.
Short and to the point, Barr’s heart for people clearly shows in her devotional readings.
You can really see her insight and time that she took with such a sensitive subject. I highly recommend this book for caregivers, doctors and family of members who suffer through this particular mental illness.
I cannot go back and fix the way I processed through my grandmother’s illness. Grandpa held on the best he could, and probably would have waved a hand in the face of any helped I would have offered. My grandparents were strong. They faced many hard trials in wars, the depression and all the globalization that followed. They survived a changing world, and they fought to survive mental illness. I am proud to have known them. They are my heroes.
I pray that you seek out this resource in your time of need or for others who may be longing for some faith-based encouragement.